CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 36. . . .May 16, 2014
Abena and the Corn Seed.
Vivian Amanor. Illustrated by Anu Guha-Thakurta & Vivian Amanor.
Winnipeg, MB: OSU Children’s Library Fund (www.osuchildrenlibraryfund.ca), 2014.
24 pp., hardcover, $13.00 plus shipping & handling.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Aileen Wortley.
After one week of waiting, there was no sign of a seedling growing. Abena started to lose hope when the days continued to pass by. “Why, Mame, is my seed not growing?” she would cry.
Abena could not help thinking of how shameful she would feel to stand in front of the king and the whole village with an empty pot. Some of her friends advised her to buy another corn seed from the market. “After all,” they said, “how can anyone tell one corn seed from another?”
Abena then remembered her father who had taught her the value of honesty. Her mother also said, “If the king wanted you to plant any corn seed, he would have asked you to go and buy your own seed. It would be dishonest to use anything different from what the king gave you. Maybe you are not supposed to be the wife of the prince after all.”
Abena is a little girl who lives in West Africa. Under the tutelage of her loving family, she grows up to be a helpful, wise and honorable young lady. After her father’s death, life was harder for Abena, and she had to relinquish her dream of becoming a nurse. Nevertheless she maintained a positive outlook on life.
When the king decided to search for an honest wife for his son, Abena made it to the top 10 candidates. But there was one more test ahead. Each of the finalists was given a corn seed to plant, and they were to return with the results in three weeks. Despite her tender loving care and many prayers, Abena was the only one of the competitors with no plant to show the king.
Like Abena, this story has a certain simple and genuine appeal that is immensely satisfying. The tale is told with clarity and directness, revealing how it might feel to be a child growing up in West Africa. Wise life-lessons are included as well as an emphasis on the value of education. The book is beautifully illustrated with vibrant colourful African imagery.
The illustrations are a joint collaboration between illustrator Anu Guha-Thakurta here in Canada, who designed and laid out fabric panels, and Vivian Amanor in the fishing village of Goi, Ghana, who added fabric pieces and embroidery. The overall result is very attractive as is the clean-cut layout and bold simple print. The book is an entertaining wise story, but its value for Canadian audiences would have been enhanced with a short glossary and some simple notes of explanation.
The publishers, OSU Children’s Library Fund, missed an opportunity to promote their wonderful mission which is to bring books and the joy of reading to all African children. Since its inception, it has been responsible for the building of eight large libraries around Ghana and in other African countries. There is no mention of this at all in the book.
Abena and the Corn Seed was shortlisted for the Golden Baobab Prize, an award given to African writers of Children’s and young people’s literature. It would be a welcome addition to public and school libraries for children in Grades 2-4.
Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian living in Toronto, ON.
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